Fundraiser’s Battle Cry|Is Too Early, Court Rules

     (CN) – A prominent Democratic fundraiser lost his challenge to a Winnetka, Ill., ordinance forcing the hosts of private events to pay for extra security and other costs associated with having politicians in town. The 7th Circuit called his claims “premature,” as he has never been billed for any special services.

     William Brandt Jr. has hosted several fundraisers for Democratic candidates at his Winnetka home in the past decade. When President Clinton visited his home in 1996, the Secret Service asked Winnetka to help with security.
     The expense of that fundraiser led Winnetka to pass an ordinance in 2000 requiring an event sponsor to pay for any city expenses incurred as a result of the private event, such as “extra police, closing streets, and rerouting traffic.”
     Brandt has since hosted fundraisers for Hillary Clinton, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Sen. Al Franken.
     “He has not been asked to pay one cent for special services,” the ruling states.
     Winnetka has only sent three bills for political events, none of which were to Brandt: one for a visit by former President George W. Bush and two for visits by former First Lady Laura Bush. The former president’s $75,000 tab was paid by the Republican National Committee.
     Nonetheless, Brandt sued the village, claiming the ordinance violations his freedom of speech. He said it creates a “hecklers’ veto,” because the costs of paying for city services might “chill” a resident from hosting an event.
     A federal judge dismissed the case, saying Brandt has not suffered any injury.
     The 7th Circuit in Chicago upheld the decision, but on different grounds. It ruled that Brandt has standing, because the fee reduces the amount of money raised “and thus diminishes the candidate’s willingness to visit Winnetka and curtails the number of occasions on which Brandt can voice his personal political opinions to visitors in his home.”
     But the three-judge panel found Brandt’s challenge premature.
     “[I]t is hard to see how a court can evaluate an as-applied challenge sensibly until a law is applied, or application is soon to occur,” Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook wrote (original emphasis).
     “Predictions, such as Brandt’s proposition that bills are bound to be higher when the candidate’s views are more contentious, need to be proved.”

%d bloggers like this: